December 2, 2014

Dec 2
2014

Housekeeping

Marilynne Robinson

(1980)

Bid Online Share: 

SOLD: $24,000

First edition. “I chose the name Ruth because it means compassionate gentleness,” Robinson writes across the first page. “It was a statement to myself about the method of the narrative.” Almost all of the annotations are written across the printed text, in the manner of paper-saving 19th-century correspondents. The occasional effort required to focus the eyes is well rewarded, as the comments have a playful and poetic quality, very much in keeping with the style and tone of the novel. “Memory is mutable and persistent like the self whose memory it is” (p.53). On the final page she writes: “This is about the infiltration of thought and experience by memory, about love in the tracings of memory, persisting and changing and animating.” Sometimes there are random observations on the action: “I have learned that many people have deep attachments to graham crackers.” “Sculpting in snow is a melancholy art.” There are interesting insights into how she created the characters: “The first thing I knew about Sylvie was a sentence ‘Sylvie’s hands were always cold.’ It doesn’t appear in the book.” A line Sylvie utters on p.51: “It’s hard to describe someone you know so well…” prompts this expostulation from Robinson: “It is impossible! This is why I never draw characters from life.” Of “Fingerbone,” the fictional locale of much of the story, Robinson writes, “I love these very tentative settlements. They are so essentially human, like some primordial outpost on the Tigres.” This quiet but powerful novel—Robinson’s first—received the PEN/Hemingway Award, and was adapted to the screen in 1987. At the outset of the last chapter she confesses to a cinematic sensibility in writing the book: “The book was very visual to me as I wrote it, and the most important scenes occur in a darkness, throwing light into relief.”

ROBINSON, Marilynne (b. 1943). Housekeeping. New York: Farrar, Straus & Giroux, 1980. 8°. Original cloth-backed boards; dust jacket.

 


About

© Kelly Ruth Winter

Marilynne Robinson is the author of Gilead, which won the 2005 Pulitzer Prize for Fiction and the 2004 National Book Critics Circle Award for Fiction. Her most recent novel, Home, won the 2008 L.A. Times Book Prize for fiction and the 2009 Orange Prize for fiction. Her first novel, Housekeeping, won the PEN/Ernest Hemingway Award for First Fiction and the Richard and Hinda Rosenthal Award from the Academy of American Arts and Letters, and was nominated for the Pulitzer Prize. Robinson received a Lila Wallace-Reader’s Digest Writer’s Award in 1990 and the prestigious Mildred and Harold Strauss Living Award from the American Academy of Arts in 1998. She released a new novel, Lila, in 2014. She has written four books of nonfiction: The Death of Adam, Absence of Mind, When I Was a Child I Read Books, and Mother Country. In 2013, President Obama awarded her the National Humanities Medal for “her grace and intelligence in writing.”